Courses that I Teach

Plant Anatomy and Development (taught at the University of Colorado)

Plant Anatomy is designed to serve as an introduction to the structure and development of cells and tissues in land plants. In order for students to learn about the potential interfaces of plant anatomy with other fields of study, diverse perspectives (evolutionary, ecological, functional, and cell biological) are brought to bear on the construction of the plant body. The use of plant anatomical information in forensics (crime scene analysis) is also a topic of study. As a consequence, students with interests as varied as ecology, plant physiology, and molecular biology consistently enroll in this course.

The concepts and information from class are applied to a hands-on set of laboratory sessions in which students study plant structure. Labs range from an examination of the diversity of microscopic crystals present in many plants to the analysis of the complex cell types that comprise diverse types of wood in trees. The goal of every lab is to insure that students experience and interact with the actual data that are the basis for the interpretation of evolutionary history and diversification. Through a substantial and sustained investment of student lab fees, each student works with a state-of-the-art digital imaging station (image above) to record plant structure through the microscope.


Plant Ecology, Evolution and Development (taught at the University of Colorado)

This course examines the central role of development in plant adaptation and response to the environment. We cover a set of central principles that can be used to analyze plants in all of their myriad complexity. Although plants are composed of only three organ types: leaf, stem, and root, these structures have been elaborated over the course of evolution to perform a diverse array of functions. For example, a leaf may function as a spine for defense, a home for ants, a trap for killing prey, a tendril to climb, and may even absorb nutrients much like a root. This course emphasizes the evolutionary transformations and developmental modifications that account for such diverse structures as well as their ecological function.

The laboratory sessions provide the opportunity to apply the principles developed in lecture to plants drawn from the department’s extensive living collection. Students use state-of-the-art digital imaging equipment, scanning electron microscopy, and histological techniques in the laboratory session.